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Agencies are not constrained by Article III of the Constitution; nor are they governed by judicially-created standing doctrines restricting access to the federal courts. The criteria for establishing "administrative standing" therefore may permissibly be less demanding than the criteria for "judicial standing."
Petitioner Envirocare, Inc., was the first commercial facility in the nation the defendant Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed to dispose of certain radioactive by-product material from offsite resources. In the late 1990s, the Commission granted the applications of two companies to allow them to dispose of radioactive waste received from other sites. In both licensing proceedings before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, Envirocare sought hearings and sought to intervene. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied those requests, holding that Envirocare did not fall within the relevant standing provision of the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2239 (a)(1)(A). Envirocare sought review of the decision, arguing that its economic interest was sufficient in satisfying the “zone of interests” test for standing, as the test was formulated in Association of Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184, 90 S. Ct. 827 (1970).
May an agency refuse to grant a hearing to persons who would satisfy the criteria for judicial standing and refuse to allow them to intervene in administrative proceedings?
The court held that the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2239 (a)(1)(A), was ambiguous, and that defendant's interpretation was reasonable. According to the court, excluding competitors who alleged economic interest was consistent with the Atomic Energy Act. The court found that Congress' intent was to strengthen competition in private enterprise, and allowing intervenors to prevent new competitors from entering the market would have the opposite effect. The court found that defendant had adhered to the questioned policy for some time. Defendant was not obligated to follow judicial standing, as it was not an Article III court. The court noted that agencies were not constrained by Article III of the Constitution; nor were they governed by judicially-created standing doctrines restricting access to the federal courts.